This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Charlene Li, (who’s cross-posted) who maintains a focus on Leadership Strategy and Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technologies at the Altimeter Group.
Google has quietly been launching a social network right under our own chins. No, it’s not about Google extending Orkut, a social networking platform they developed a few years ago, or growing Google groups, or even launching their own version of a Twitter. Instead they’ve been releasing small bits of social networking features, little by little. Previously, we’ve made the case that email is already the largest social network, however Google’s plans go beyond Gmail. First, let’s define what to look for, in order to identify what Google is concocting.
Defining Social Networks
To start with, we define a social network as having three baseline components: 1) A profile that contains a person’s information; 2) The ability for people to connect to each other via those profiles, often called a social graph; and 3) the ability to do something useful or valuable they couldn’t have done otherwise. Features such as discoverability or public access are often cited as social network features, but we believe that the common denominators across most social networks are the three characteristics we listed.
Now that we agree on the definition, we can see that Google is launching each of these features with little fanfare. Let’s break down what’s happening. Google allows people to:
Maintain a Rich Profile. Google recently launched new features called Google profiles which allows users to upload profile pics, include personal information and preferences, and allow it to be discoverable on the web. These are coupled with a Google account such as gmail, and is at the core of these efforts.
Connect and Communicate With Others. Individuals using the Google profiles can connect to each other and share information using a variety of tools, not all of them necessarily social. For example, Gmail and Google Talk contain not just your contacts, but also understand with whom you communicate the most. Google doesn’t explicitly ask if you’re a ‘friend’ or ‘fan’ of someone, but rather, allows people to connect to each other in a variety of communication tools. And most recently, Google launched Google Sidewiki, which allows anyone to add comments to any page on the Web with just a Firefox plug-in.
Centralize Information In A Useful Way. Allowing people to build profiles and communicate with each other isn’t of much value unless it can provide a more useful experience not previously available. Google provides a number of tools like Google Wave, a collaboration tool we’ve started to experiment with, Gtalk instant messanger, and Gmail which rivals Facebook’s newsfeed, chat, and inbox respectively.
Google’s Stealth Threat
The difference between Google and destination social networks like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook is that Google doesn’t have a specific URL. Instead, it is creating elements that envelope the web, by enabling every online (and mobile) activity to possibly be social one –then running it all on their own centralized platform. Google isn’t going after a frontal, brute force assault on Facebook and the other social networks — it simply can’t win at that game on a global basis. Instead Google is pursuing a softer approach, a zen-like attach much like water flowing around a rock. It is using its strengths — ubiquity and open platforms — to put “social” into every corner of the Web.
This is the stealth threat — that today’s social networks won’t really be losing share to the “Google network”, but rather, that they will become slowly less relevant as EVERYTHING gets social thanks to advances by Google. Their end goal? Google’s social network is designed to exist everywhere –not be centralized in any one location. By the way, two can play at this game and we see Microsoft making similar moves in the future. (Edit: It was pointed out to Charlene that Yahoo! is also making similar moves with its social APIs).
- Enveloping The Social Web Is Core To Google’s Strategy. This is inline with Google’s traditional strategy of organizing the world’s information –then serving up monetization options around it. Although a few years late to the game, Google’s move is crucial as they already have large amounts of information about what you look for, who you know, and the activities you do. It’s a natural step for them to also organize and make sense of the social and behavioral information that people create. In addition, Google — who already has long term relationships with agencies, brands, and marketers — will be a natural place for companies to look to for advertising and marketing opportunities around social data, rather than new players and start-ups.
- Google’s Recent Moves Threaten Incumbent Social Networks. Facebook and other competitors will need to quickly spread it’s Facebook Connect platform and evolve it to something that doesn’t even require APIs or registrations. The challenge with Facebook Connect is it requires the website owner (publisher) and the user to opt-in and allow for content to become social. With Google’s SideWiki, only the users need to opt-in, which will cause adoption to spread must faster. Facebook will need to extend it’s inline browser (surfing the web within the context of facebook.com) or developing their own browser to counter Google’s moves. Facebook’s core conundrum is balancing personal and often private information of its community with the need to expose information in public in order to be relevant in search and eventually advertising.
- Despite Privacy Concerns, Users Will Continue To Use Google. Although privacy concerns will continue to be the mainstay of objections, the benefits to the common user will outweigh any critics. We know that people will verbally object to their privacy being an opportunity for another company, yet they continue to behave in a way opposite to their objections. Why? For most, they’ve grown to trust players like Google. Or they are willing to give up control of some information in exchange for convenience, such as having social data conveniently show up on Google Maps on your phone. And for others, the price of privacy can be measured by what information they will give up to get ‘free shipping’. The root concern isn’t broadly about privacy, but specifically about privacy in the context of when you’re not in control of it. Google is highly motivated to maintain the trust of users and will do everything possible to continue earning and deserving that trust.
We’re not the only ones to notice this trend, Search Engine Watch also characterizes Google as a social media company. We hope our viewpoint sheds light to where Google is heading, and hope to hear your viewpoints too.
Despite a downturn in the economy, we continue to recognize those moving in the social media space. I’ve started this post series (see archives) to both track and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions. Please help me congratulate the following folks:
How to connect with others (or get a job):
Several people have been hired because of this blog post series, here’s how you can too:
Submit an announcement
If you know folks that are moving up in the social media industry, leave a comment below, or if you’re feeling shy (it’s cool to self-nominate) send me an email. Please include a link to your announcement, and ensure you’re really living and breathing in the social media world –this is not a small aspect of your role.
Seeking Social Media Professionals?
If you’re seeking to connect with community advocates and community managers there are few resources
List of Enterprise Social Media Professionals
This list, which started with just 8 names continues to grow as folks submit to it. List of Social Computing Strategists and Community Managers for Enterprise Corporations 2008 –Social Media Professionals. Other job resources include:
Web Strategy Jobs powered by Job o Matic (Post a job there and be seen by these blog readers, these affiliate fees pay for my hosting)
Read Write Web keeps announcements flowing at Jobwire, although is broader than just social media jobs
Facebook group for community manager group in Facebook
Jake McKee’s community portal for jobs
Chris Heuer’s Social Media Jobs
SimplyHired aggregates job listings, as does Indeed
ForumOne Jobs for Social Media and Community
Teresa has a few jobs, some around community
New Media hire has an extensive job database
Social Media Headhunter
Social media jobs
Jobs in social media
Altimeter Group’s list of social media consultants and agencies
Hiring? Leave a comment
If you’re seeking candidates in the social media industry, many of them are within arms reach, feel free to leave a link to a job description (but not the whole job description, please)
I’ve been invited back to Hawaii on Nov for [Re]Think Hawaii summit in Honolulu, Oahu, speaking on the panel for the Social Media Business Summit. If you want to attend, use the discount code “jeremiah” and receive 35% off the week pass. The focus of the summit is to focus a week is about “connecting entrepreneurs and investors during a series of panels, lunches, excursions, dinners, cocktails and aloha style exchange of ideas and relationship building in Hawaii.”
In particular, I’m interested in exploring how social impacts the tourism industry in Hawaii, both from tourists sharing, making decisions, to the actual experience using mobile devices and digital capture devices during and after their experience. You too are encouraged to come, this event hosted by Christine Lu and others, will feature a wide variety of business topics focused around Hawaii, entrepreneurism, sustainability, and island culture.
I’ve an incredible affection for Hawaii, and have recently set a personal goal (called Operation Bluewater) to spend at least one month per year in Hawaii in a net positive experience. Personal goals are important to me, I’ve set some for my health, for my blog, for my career and a few for personal lifestyle. Net positive indicates that the overall experience isn’t a financial loss, but instead I’ll figure out how to conduct business in a profitable manner in Hawaii –or work remote with my existing responsibilities. This event aligns with my goals, as the conference organizers are paying for my travel and hotel costs.
I’m open to suggestions, proposals, and other ideas on how to achieve my goals but also encourage you to spark up your own personal goals –regardless of how wild they may seem. How do you decide, plan, and achieve your personal goals?
Disclosure: As a professional courtesy, [Re]Think Hawaii has invited me as a speaker and is covering my travel and expenses.
Corporations continue to get blindsided by social media –which of course, is just a representation of underlying customer or product issues that should be fixed. Companies respond in three ways: 1) Ignore it and do nothing at their own peril, 2) Are responsive but not necessarily in control 3) Assert themselves and be proactive –even during a crises. The following three examples highlight companies being proactive in the third effort –and analyzes their end result.
AT&T Evangelist Softens Support Woes –For The Short Term
Large telecommunications giant AT&T has had a reputation for ineffective coverage and support –an ailment common the bigger companies get. Recently, the iPhone community in both NYC and SF in particular have shouted out against the service and dropped calls they receive (my own company has witnessed this ourselves). As a result, they launched Seth the Blogger Guy, in this video that addresses the conversation head on.
Danger: Customers were mounting an online revolt by complaining about AT&T service. Thanks to Gene for the submission.
Action: AT&T launched an evangelist program to educate, explain with a personal touch to take on customer complaints.
Risks: Critics have blasted this effort, suggesting Seth really isn’t a blogger, and point out that he’s really a member of the PR Agency Fleishman-Hillard.
Results: This is still unfolding but I’ll make a call anyways. This is a PR effort designed to quell off a rebellion that we heard and are responding. Despite the good intentions, AT&T will need to fix the customer issues, or this will simply be remembered as lipstick on a pig. Secondly, this is an opportunity for the actual engineers and technicians to become the true stars of the company –give them a platform to speak beyond the PR team.
Cisco Fatty Embarrasses Herself –Resulting in PR Cleanup
Tech giant Cisco recently made an offer to an intern in silicon valley to work in their San Jose office. This not-so-savvy individual tweeted out “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” to her small network not realizing Cisco employees are monitoring the Twittersphere. One replied back “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” This spun into a media blitz, including a MSNBC article, and even Oprah calling and requesting both parties join the show.
Danger: Even would-be employees can put a brand in danger as the open conversation cascades across the web. This young woman embarrassed herself and the company –yet in reality, her behavior is akin to Generation Y’s vocal ways.
Action: Cisco responded in an adult-like way, not trying to draw any more damage to this young woman.
Risks: Cisco’s employees who blasted back put the company at risk as ‘picking on her’ need to have an internal crises team to lean on –before responding.
Results: For Cisco, this was handled in an ideal way, and a lesson to learnt by all. Of course, the real question needs to be answered: why would this individual hate the work?
EA Sports Counters YouTube Attack
Video game maker EA sports is not immune to product faults. In fact, a recent Tiger Woods golfing game had a glitch that allowed Tiger to walk on water and hit the ball –in which the YouTube community dubbed the “Jesus Shot” by member Levinator25 which has nearly a million views pointing out the games flaw.
Danger: All products have faults and now they are shown directly on YouTube, and other social sites
Action: EA Sports took the critic headon, and released this ‘response’ video showing Tiger –well, doing his thing.
Risks: This was a risky move. Not only does it highlight the games errors, but it risks embarrassing Levinator 25 and igniting futhur rebellion.
Results: This was a clever response from EA, but unfortunately, it’s not scalable. With every product likely to have an error, companies cannot afford to have response videos with celebrities. Instead, launch communities that empower customers to submit problems and fixes –outsourcing support and development.
The conversation is just starting, submit your own example of a company being blind-sided by social customers and how they responded shifting negative energy into positive.
Bonus: Kraft’s new product name received a public lashing from the social sphere, they’ve now created a website to get names from public submissions. Link via Suzie
Having just returned from vacation, (hence the break from blogging) I had the distinct pleasure of keynoting Silicon Valley AMA last night at Cisco’s Telepresence suites in Santa Clara. In my opening keynote, I had a specific message to marketing leaders in the valley to think holistic about social. I outlined some of the major impacts to other departments beyond marketing.
Companies Must Plan Holistically For Social –Beyond Marketing
PR and Communication: The first business unit to be impacted by social, these organizations realized and have adopted the rise of blogs as early as 2005, and in response, many have launched their own blogs, or are sophisticated in blogger outreach. Additionally, AR professionals are just starting to recognize the impacts of social as analysts are able to bypass traditional gatekeepers and talk directly to product teams using these tools.
Marketing: Whether it be corporate or field marketing, the impacts are far reaching to marketing. Marketing has had to become an enabler as anyone who participates in the company with social is now acting on behalf of the company. There’s been several instances of support mishaps that have become the domain of marketing.
Events: Whether it’s virtual or physical, events need to develop a strategy around social. Event teams need a pre, during, and post strategy, and need to join communities where they exist. I’ve outlined how events need to harness social into their strategy in this informative post.
Sales and Field: Sales teams have always been social, now these tools amplify their relationships and communications. Marketing must be a resource and educate sales teams how to appropriately use these teams, including teaching them how to listen, engage, and act professionally as they would in real life.
Sales Operations: Systems that organize customer data need to quickly ramp up and include social data. Information found in LinkedIn, and other social networks can be aggregated into customer databases such as CRM systems.
Partners and Channel Marketing: The opportunity to allow your customer and partner channel to learn from each other, syndicate your product content, or to quickly educate them is at hand. See how channel marketing can benefit from social.
Human Resources: Now, with websites like Glassdoor.com employees can rate their experience at an employer, and even gauge the quality of leadership. HR professionals know they must build internal communities to allow and encourage employees to connect to each other. They also should extend existing behavior guidelines or disclosure policies to include the social domain before a crisis emerges. Recruiters have been using social tools to find candidates such as LinkedIn, Google Searches, and scanning blogs.
Product Development: Engineering, R&D, and other product or service creation teams recognize that customers are talking about their products and making suggestions in websites such as UserVoice, or Linkedin or Yahoo answers and need to envelope customer feedback and factor into the product lifecycle.
Support: Client service teams must reach customers where they are (like BestBuy or Comcast in Twitter) to support customers, as well as use social tools within their own companies to provide an opportunity for customers to self-support each other, or develop a collaborative knowledge base that can be shared between customers and support teams. Support teams should fix their existing support issues –not just respond in Twitter as it teaches customers bad habits.
Executives: Often the job of great leaders is to listen and communicate. These tools amplify each of these behaviors and can be used to listen to employee and market insight, as well as communicate back to them. John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO has an internal blog in which he communicates to employees on a regular basis.
I certainly didn’t get every department and look to you to fill in the gaps for the opportunities and risks for those that I listed above or those I missed. A few years ago, I created this diagram of how social can impact the product lifecycle, it’s finally become relevant.
Leave a comment below of some departments that I missed, and the opportunities and risks to each.
Update: Kirsti attending the event, and has more notes from the presentation. She notes the changes that companies must prepare for: disparate websites, internal rebellions, and developing long-term plans.